Juan-Henri found himself in a dingy backroom of Wong's Fungi, sitting across the table from the muttonchopped man. For a couple of moments, "Muttonchops," as JH thought of him, said nothing, only staring evenly across at Mcgill, who stared back. Finally, after an interminable silence, Muttonchop spoke.
"Do you know why you are here?"
"Let me guess... it's because I asked for Loppy-tan mushrooms."
"Oh yes... yes Dr. Mcgill. But it's so much more than that."
"What do you mean? And how do you know my name? And how do you know about the doctorate?"
"We know a great deal about you, Doctor. We've been following your studies for some time."
"Yes. And now let me ask you: Does the name Artie Schopenhauer mean anything to you?"
Mcgill paused. He felt a rushing sensation at the back of his skull, as the humiliation and degradation of his Yale days came rushing in upon him. Finally he answered.
"Yes. OK - so you know about the whole Kierkegaard/Schoppenhauer thing. Big deal."
"Quite an embarassment for you, wasn't it?"
"Let me answer you this way... suppose you had just completed your doctoral dissertation on Kierkegaard's delight in the traumatic descents of the elderly, when you happened to look up the event in Philosophical Anecdotes, only to discover that it was Schopenhauer, not Kierkegaard, all the time? How would you feel, you muttonchopped limey bastard?"
Muttonchop seemed unperturbed by Mcgill's vitriol, and merely replied,
"But, Doctor, what if you found out you were right?"
"Right? Don't toy with me."
"Let me put this a different way... we would like to hire you, Doctor."
Juan-Henri was stunned. Why would they want to hire him, knowing his great error. He thought for a moment.
"Why would you want to hire me, knowing my great error?"
"Again, Doctor, as I said before, it is not that you are wrong, but that you are right."
"Now I know you're some crazy mushroom addict... I'm wrong! Dead wrong! And not just about Kierkegaard, but about everthing! Neil Simon did not write "A Doll's House," it's not Heisenberg's Special Theory of Relativity, and Shiela E is not the drummer for Rush!"
Muttonchop pushed a paper across the desk at Mcgill. After scanning it for a moment, Mcgill's eyes widened.
"Can this be true?"
"Yes, Doctor - it is true. And it is one of the great secrets of Philosophy. Though Schopenhauer was born twenty-five years before Kierkegaard, their lives overlapped. In fact, as you know, Kierkegaard died five years before Schopenhauer. But the real trick came fifteen years after Schoppie's own demise, when a polish graduate student named Gherkin Mahamot transposed their names in his own doctoral thesis. For some reason, which our organization has never been able to uncover, the entire literary and philosophical establishment was in on the conspiracy, and every extant copy of Kierkegaard and Schopenhauer's works were edited to reverse responsibility for this one anecdote."
Mcgill sat in silence. If this were true...
"You see, Doctor, where you have gone your whole life thinking that you are cursed, it is in fact that you have a rare gift. It is called meta-gnosis. A secret, hidden knowledge of truth, even when all evidence is to the contrary. So you see, it was, in fact, Heisenberg that divined the special theory of relativity, and it is in fact Shiela E who plays the skins for the Canadian power-trio."
"So... what do you want me for?"
"It's simple. Our organization, Her Majesty's Royal Mounted Marines Special Urban Combat Commando Squad, needs men like you. Or not just men like you, for there are indeed no others, but you in particular. We are in the midst of the most terrible conspiracy, a world-shaking enigma whose twists and turns confound the most gifted of logicians. Disinformation is everywhere. Have you ever heard of Earl Platudinor?"
"Who hasn't? My graduate advisor Dr. Menlo has even met him. He's Warren Buffet's financial mentor, and the guy who told Steve Jobs to start Microsoft."
"Precisely. Now, a second question. Do you have any idea why your employer, Taibachi-san, would send you into Kalamazoo for a load of Loppie-tans?"
"Are you familiar with Sentosa Island in Singapore?"
"Yes - it's a sort of garden island across from the port. If I am correct (and I never am), it's also the only home of the Spindly Legged Wombat."
"Exactly, and do you know what is the only food for the Spindly Legged Wombat?"
"Let me guess," Mcgill said quickly, "the Loppie-tan mushroom".
"Again, precisely, Doctor," Muttonchopped answered, in a satisfied manner. "Now, Doctor, let me fill you in on current events. Four days ago, we discovered that the last remaining Loppies had been destroyed by a one-armed, red headed scandinavian named Hansel Daggerfjord. This is unfortunate, not only because it threatens to extinguish the Spindly Legged Wombat from the earth, thus damaging our biodiversity, but because an excretion from the Spindly Legged Wombat's pituitary gland is the primary ingredient in the deadly nerve agent XZ-27."
"I see... but why do you want me?"
"Look at yourself, Doctor. You are the perfect weapon. A man who is the sole avatar of meta-gnosis, who also holds degrees in philosophy, sociology, and psychology, as well as an undergraduate degree in quantum physics. A man who is skilled in Brazilian Judo, Tai-kwan-do, Jujitsu, and Karate. A man who was a demolition specialist in the Navy SEALS, and who pilots experimental aircraft as a hobby. In fact, your only weakness is a lack of experience with corporate accounting."
Juan Henri coughed, and Muttonchop looked at him suspiciously.
"Have I missed something, doctor?"
"Well," Mcgill said reluctantly, "I suppose I should tell you that to bring in extra cash, I have been moonlighting doing compliance audits for Arthur Andersen."
Two hours later, Muttonchop was on the phone.
"He bought the whole thing."
Her Majesty's Royal Mounted Marines Special Urban Combat Commando Squad had a new recruit, and Sultan Zhpat had a new minion.